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Pioneers celebrate regional title with win over Carlson PHOTO GALLERY

  • The Gabriel Richard hockey team celebrated a regional championship Saturday night with a win over Carlson. The Pioneers will move on to face St. Mary Catholic Central on Wednesday in the quarterfinals. Photos by Larry Caruso

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There were two big shifts of momentum in the second period and the last decided the champion of the regional hockey game between Carlson and Gabriel Richard on Saturday night in Southgate.

Fortunately for the Pioneers, the last shift belonged to them and they went on to knock Carlson out of the state playoffs with a 5-2 victory.

The game-winner came with 10:14 left to play what turned out to be an exciting second period.

Richard captain Devin Dickow found himself alone with three Carlson defenders, worked his way around and fired to the back of the net for a 3-1 Pioneer lead.

Joseph Lavine and John Ames assisted.

Two minutes later, the Marauders made it a one-goal game.

Gage Darga’s goal seemed to surprise many who were focused on two players tied up at mid ice but the sophomore fired one to the back of the net for a 3-2 score.

Tommy Miles and Payton Auer had the assists.

“When we made it 3-2, I thought for sure that we were gonna come back,” Carlson Coach Dennis Gundick said. “We had a lot of zip in our skates and our forecheck. We thought it’s 3-2 and we’ll do it.”

Two and a half minutes later, all that motivation was gone.

Richard’s top man Michael Hodgson found a hole in traffic in front of the net to give the Pioneers another two-goal lead with help from Jack Skrzynski.

“We had a couple mental lapses down in our zone and then they popped that fourth one in and you could hear the kids get a little flat on the bench,” Gundick said.

Despite being outscored 3-2 in the second, Carlson did have a good outing.

They fired shot after shot on net but Richard’s Matt Mandernach stood tall, as he did the whole night.

“We just couldn’t find the back of the net,” Gundick said. “Their goalie came big with some saves in the second period.

“In the second period we had a lot of missed opportunities, we just couldn’t get to the missed puck and put it in. We missed three or four open netters.”

Early in the game, Richard held a 1-0 lead for almost an entire period. John Louria and Hodgson assisted.

Just over two minutes in, the puck was deflected off of Jack Skrzynski and into the net.

The momentum swung Carlson’s way when they tied things up just 13 seconds into the second.

Drew Coleman found Mandernach way out of his net and banged one in the right corner for a tied game.

Dylan Nixdorf assisted.

The Pioneers took a lead the never let up with 13:10 to go in the second.

Joseph Lavine stick handled his way around Carlson’s Ellis Graham and banged it in.

The third period was a physical affair that saw the teams combine for 12 of the night’s 17 penalties.

Things started to get chippy in the third and eventually turned into a brawl at the end of the period.

With a few timeouts, DeSana encouraged his team to stay focused.

“I just reminded them they need to be disciplined,” he said. “We’ve got another game we have to prepare for and we need each and every player.

“We don’t’ have a lot of depth. They had a little bit more depth than us and I think that was the difference in the third period when they outplayed us.”

Carlson’s frustrations were apparent and they pulled Graham for the one-man advantage.

It didn’t work and with 42.2 seconds to go, Richard’s Brandon Damron fired away a shot to the empty net to ice the game.

Hodgson assisted.

“It was a very exciting game,” Richard Coach Ricky DeSana said. “I think they were a good quality team and they were playing very good hockey at the end of the season.

“We played a good position but they kind of brought it to us a little bit in that third period.”

The two teams saw each other less than a month ago and before the Pioneers won it was a one-goal game heading into the third.

“This game could have gone either way,” DeSana said. “I thought we played good in our own zone in the third period and limited their second chances.

“They got some good first chances, but I thought we limited the second chances and that’s good experience for the upcoming.”

Mandernach got the win in net, stopping 24 of 26 shots.

“I thought senior goalie Matt Mandernach played excellent,” DeSana said. “When it comes to the season the difference in these games can be goaltending.”

Carlson’s season may have ended, but Gundick said it was a great one and he’s optimistic about the future.

“It was a good season for the kids,” he said. “They stuck to our program. We worked on a lot of new stuff in the middle of the year and the kids picked it up.

“We’ve got 20 kids returning. We just told them to take the spring off and think about tonight. Let it stew in you a little bit and then come back in the summer and build from there.”

The regional title was Richard’s first since the 2009-2010 season.

The Pioneers will now move on to face Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in the state quarterfinals on Wednesday at 5:30 at Yost Arena on the University of Michigan campus.

Last Updated: 3/4/2014 2:24:55 PM EST